Ivie: Suicide by the numbers
How suicide deaths compareIn Colorado in 2018, there were:
- 50 HIV deaths
- 260 homicides
- 658 motor vehicle deaths
- 600 breast cancer deaths
- 567 influenza/pneumonia
- 970 diabetes deaths
- 1,271 deaths by suicide
In recent weeks, SpeakUp ReachOut has received a lot of questions about the number of deaths by suicide we have in our county. People want to know how that compares to COVID-19 deaths. Thus far, Eagle County has seen nine COVID-19 deaths and six deaths by suicide in 2020.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. It is estimated that for every recorded suicide death there are at least 25 attempts. The overall picture is more complicated: More people are struggling in our community than these surface numbers reflect.
I want to take a moment to clarify the difference between rate and number regarding suicide data. Suicide rate is defined as the number of deaths per 100,000. Suicide number is defined as the actual number of deaths in a population.
According to the Colorado Violent Death Reporting System, Eagle County experienced 102 suicide deaths and an age-adjusted rate of 14.5 per 100,000 between 2004 and 2018. To compare: Garfield County’s age-adjusted rate is 19.0 per 100,000 and Mesa County’s age-adjusted rate is 25.6 per 100,000. The average age-adjusted rate of suicide in Colorado is 18.1 per 100,000 or 14,233 deaths from 2004-2018.
In 2018, the most recent year we have finalized data, the CDC Fatal Injury report shows that Colorado had a suicide rate of 21.83 per 100,000 and ranked in the top third of suicide rates in the United States. Washington D.C. had the lowest rate at 7.37 per 100,000 and New Mexico was the highest at 24.98 per 100,000. The age-adjusted rate for the United States was 14.2. In Eagle County we experienced a rate twice the national average at 28.6 per 100,000 or 14 deaths in 2018.
Here is what we can take away from all this data: Suicide numbers and ultimately rates are increasing across the U.S. which makes suicide a public health issue worth discussing and learning more about in regard to prevention efforts. As Irving Selikoff noted, “statistics are people with the tears wiped away.” Each one of these deaths is tragic and there are loved ones and a grieving community left behind. We as a community can do better. Not only can we learn to recognize the signs of suicide and help someone to hope, but we can also take steps to make this world and community a place where everyone feels there is a life worth living.
It is important to use data to advise our work in suicide prevention and mitigate risk factors while promoting protective factors in our community. Data should not be used to strike fear. Suicide is largely preventable when we take the steps to start a conversation with someone we are worried about. To learn more, visit http://www.speakupreachout.org and consider taking one of our free trainings like Living Works Start, which is an online, self-paced program for anyone in the community.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the Eagle Hope Center at 970-306-4673 or Colorado Crisis Services at 844-493-8255, Text TALK to 38255.
Erin Ivie is the executive director of SpeakUp ReachOut. Find out more at https://www.speakupreachout.org/.